Basalt soccer cruises in playoff opener
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Maybe it was the extended layoff. Or the additional two-day wait after Wednesday’s postponent. Or frigid temperatures that left players huddled under jackets and around propane heaters blazing behind the bench.
Whatever the reason, the Basalt soccer team appeared flat in the opening 25 minutes of Friday’s 3A state playoff opener against Telluride on the turf at Aspen High School.
Circumstances shifted in an instant.
Omar Lopez found an opening and a chance to break a scoreless tie 15 minutes before halftime. The senior didn’t miss, ripping a low liner into the right corner of the net. The Sixth-seeded Longhorns exploded from there, scoring three more goals in the first, then four more in the second half en route to an easy 8-1 win over the 27th-seeded Miners.
Basalt (12-3-1) will host the winner of Saturday’s game between No. 11 Weld Central and No. 22 Alexander Dawson on Tuesday afternoon.
“It probably took us a while to get used to the field,” Longhorns senior Johny Diaz said. “That first one calmed us down, and we really started to finish after that.”
Prior to Friday’s match, Basalt last played Oct 17 at Hotchkiss. The time off showed in the early going, as the Longhorns struggled to string together passes and came away empty-handed on multiple good scoring chances.
That changed after Lopez tucked the ball past Telluride keeper Austin Koenig. Seven minutes later, German exchange student Lukas Dilling headed home a perfect cross from Diaz to stretch the lead to two.
Lopez found the net once more in stoppage time when, after a pass from Diaz, he maneuvered his way through traffic and flicked the ball into the net with his left foot.
Little more than one minute later, Lopez took on a defender up the right side, turned and lobbed a perfect cross that was headed home by Owen Bailey.
“Even before [we started scoring], we were getting good shots. They just weren’t going in,” Lopez said. “Once we got it going, we were looking good.”
Basalt’s lone first-half miscue came in the final minute when a defensive breakdown resulted in a Miners goal. Diaz erased that gaffe 10 minutes into the second half, knocking home a cross from Hector Morales from close range.
“We were sluggish at the start, then started grinding them down,” Longhorns head coach John McDermott said. “I was really pleased.”
Three more Basalt players joined in the scoring barrage down the stretch. In the 63rd minute, Austin Long chased down a pass from Lopez, sped past a defender and drilled the ball into the net. Three minutes later, Dylan Brown turned and uncorked a powerful shot from about 20 yards out that beat Koenig.
Brandon Enriquez notched the Longhorns’ eighth goal in the 71st minute to cap off Basalt’s second impressive opening-round win over a ski-town school in as many seasons. The Longhorns routed Crested Butte, 7-0, last season, then topped Weld Central, 1-0, to book a trip to the quarterfinals.
Basalt and Weld Central could meet up again Tuesday. Both McDermott and his players are certain the Longhorns will be ready.
“We’ll go in and sort them out. That’s what we always seem to do,” the coach said.
“After this, we’re going strong,” Diaz added. “If we play like we did today and the rest of the season, I think we’ll be fine.”
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